War haiku - haibun

Battlefield Memento

by John J. Dunphy

I recently learned of a Vietnam veteran whose battalion was overrun during a battle in the Ia Drang Valley. His company suffered a casualty rate of over 90 percent during a 24-hour period of hand-to-hand fighting.

In the early 1990s this man and a few other Ia Drang veterans returned to Vietnam and walked that long-ago battlefield. He wanted to find some memento of the conflict, such as shrapnel or a shell casing, to leave beside the panel of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - "The Wall" - that contains the names of his comrades killed during this battle.

But he found no war relics. Over the years nature had effaced all traces of that horrendous engagement. Beautiful flowers now bloomed where once men had died. Still, this veteran wanted some memento to lay at The Wall panel listing his fallen comrades.

next to names of war dead
pressed flowers
from their last battlefield

(originally published in the Fall 2000 issue of Modern Haiku)

Copyright John J. Dunphy, 2000